All of us deal with our emotions every day without really thinking about it at all. We each have an emotional thermostat that just resets itself whenever something happens so that we are able to deal with it. We reset our thermostats and then we move on without most people even knowing that we have needed a thermostat reset. When an individual has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) it is not so easy. Their thermostats don’t have the auto reset option. As a situation gets confusing or upsetting their emotions start heating up. The problem with this is that at some point there has to be a let off of steam. Anyone who lives with or loves someone with FASD can easily relate to this. The issues also heat up afterwards as it can take time for the emotional thermostat to be reset. For some people it can take days or weeks depending on how upsetting the issues relating to the blow up were.
The hardest part in this whole emotional upheaval is that to the non FASD affected person we may have truly no idea what has upset the FASD affected person. Therefore what we are seeing is only the product of their emotional upheaval which equals behaviors. So what we see are BEHAVIORS. Sometimes extremely upsetting behaviors are seen and this is what this person begins to be equated with. The person is seen not with the fact that they are dealing with their emotions the best they can but only seen as a behavioral issue. The causes of the behaviors aren’t looked for and so the issues continue.
One mother talked of how her daughter just quit sleeping. She could not get this child to sleep at all. Her behaviors during the day were becoming so troubling that there was talk of her needing to go to some sort of a residential setting. The mother was at her wits end. She could not think what was going on. The family had moved and the child’s new room was painted a very bright color. No one had thought of this as the problem. They had been talking about the move thinking she was upset about it but it was not this. It was that she needed her room repainted. As soon as this was done she was fine.
I know that in our house it is easy to know when something is off. I know some people worry that what is being said is that it is the families fault when behaviors increase. NOT TRUE! What is being said is that sometimes if we look at the person’s environment we will see that something is off and if we fix it the behaviors can decrease or even cease. However, sometimes no matter what we look for we cannot find it. The real issue is that most often the person who has FASD is not able to tell us what is wrong. They may not know or be too upset to be able to figure it out. The fact is we are all going to have to realize that the person who is affected by FASD is going to have emotional ups and downs that are going to be seen in their behaviors. I always liken it to a kettle on the stove. When it comes to a boil it is going to have to let off steam or it will blow up. So we have to find ways to help let off the steam. Things like a punching bag to let off anger, a stationary bicycle to ride as fast as possible, a trampoline to jump on, a water table to play in, or a sand table. These are just a few of the things that can be used but are not the total answer as each child is different and each person will have to test things until they find what works for their child or person the best. Talk therapy does not usually work as the person will most likely not understand what is wrong either.